Helen's blog

Can Masdeu - inspiring 10 year old social centre

Today I woke up in a beautiful strawbale house, with a view over numerous little allotments - created from the rubble by the squatters and the local 'abuelos' (old men or literally grandads) on moving in 10 years ago - and down the wooded valley out across Barcelona - which is about 10 minutes away by foot - how cool is that?! What is even more amazing is that I was taken there by one of the locals who noticed me looking lost and was very friendly and positive about it.  I was taken back to the metro this morning by a lovely woman on her way to work.

15M (or M15 in english) demonstration in Barcelona

It was totally amazing to be in Barcelona for the 'manifestacion' on the 15th of October - there were thousands of people there - and I just had to keep moving as more and more people arrived from the different barrios and surrounding villages. I went with Llume and Fermin (who I know from PBI Guatemala - who trained me and Matt, and who I went on to run the trainings with). They are both big trade unionists (Fermin in Telefonica and Llume in teaching) and activists involved in all sorts - anything that is unjust and needs sorting as far as I can see.

La Veloz - an amazingly sorted 18 year old co-operative

This week I got to talk to Javier (one of the founders of La Veloz – a totally amazing co-operative) to find out the secret to their long term survival (for Kindling and MVP). La Veloz started 18 years ago as an eco-courier. They are a well respected grass roots co-op, and through the years have developed systems to deal with the issues that co-operatives everywhere face (different working styles, hours, levels of commitment all through a horizontal structure and decision making).

Del Campo a Casa - a small organic growers co-op that is also part of a wider network of producers

On Wednesday night we popped into a seasonal tasting session to talk to some of the organisers - a group of organic producers, who work together to supply Birosta (the vegetarian bar that Patricia and others set up). The three producers also run a box scheme (Del Campo a Casa – From the Field to House), which they distribute through various drop of points (Birosta is one of them). Two of them pooled their land and the third is in the same area works closely with them.

CERAI - sustainable food on the public plate (sound familiar?...)

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with Jorge Hernandez, the president of Cerai Zaragoza (Centre of Rural Studies and International Agriculture). Cerai are an amazing organisation, working on a range of themes including raising awareness (both locally and internationally) about agro-ecology and the importance of the loss of food sovereignty, empowering small producers to become self organised and have more control over what they do, technical assistance and training for farmers in organic production methods and lots more.

Reas - Alternative and 'solidaria' economy network.

The idea of Reas is to create an alternative to the mainstream economic system. While sustainable food is not the focus of Reas, there are many food enterprises involved, and equality/fairness is a key aim both for Reas and for us at Kindling (and Feedingmanchester and Manchester Veg People). Patricia has talked to me in the past about Reas, and after looking at their website I felt inspired by the idea of such a grass roots network, as well as by the idea of a revolution of the trading system as a whole (not just the food system), and felt we could learn a lot from it.

The Food Producers - Uk Food Group conference

En route to sunny spain, for my 7 week research trip to learn the secret to the success of the long term co-operative movement, I stopped in at the UK Food Group conference in London.  'The Producers' was an afternoon of presentations and debate focused on small scale producers: Most food in the world is grown, raised and harvested by small-scale food producers.

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